The kingdom of heaven isn’t like a human kingdom. It doesn’t depend on worldly wealth or power, on who has the largest army, or the most nuclear weapons. It doesn’t depend on who is the most charismatic leader, or the cleverest, or the richest. It’s not like earthly power structures.
God can see through the outward appearances – when he sent Samuel to anoint a new king, after Saul had proved disappointing, the obvious choice was rejected. Sure, Jesse’s first son Eliab was tall and good-looking, but he wasn’t the one. He may have had all the worldly attributes, and being the first-born has gone a long way to promoting someone’s chances of ruling. No, Samuel was instructed to look at the other promising boys, until he had gone down the line of all 7 of them. Imagine asking someone who has 7 kids if there are any others? It would be a bit odd wouldn’t it. But that’s all about God’s provision. Just when we think that the possibilities are exhausted, God has something new in store. Is there another also? Yes, but he’s working. Tending the sheep. I wonder why he wasn’t included in the original roll-call. Maybe he was too young and of too low a status to be considered. Maybe his mother was a concubine or slave, and he was relegated to second-best. He wasn’t even deemed worthy to come and join in the sacrifice. Continue reading →
Sermon May 13
Rev Felicity O’Brien
Today’s Gospel is a remarkable passage. Jesus is praying extensively to his Father, not for himself and the journey he knows he has to undertake, but for his followers. His concern and compassion is for all those who have been listening to him and believing in him.
Jesus makes it clear that the disciples he is praying for belong to the father – They are yours, he says. Jesus is future-planning for the disciples – he knows that he is going away, and on Thursday we celebrated the ascension, when Jesus left the earth, as his disciples watched his feet disappearing into the clouds. He knows that the disciples will face huge challenges in the time to come, and asks God to protect them. He has a reason for that protection; ‘Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are One. Continue reading →
This week we are preparing for Pentecost, when we commemorate the coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples, and everyone else around them. There are many images for the Holy Spirit, and those in today’s readings are all based on natural phenomenon such as wind, fire, storms and earthquakes. First, we heard about Elijah fleeing from King Ahab’s wrath, and hiding in the desert.
A great wind came by, so powerful that it broke rocks. But God was not in that. Then an earthquake, and a fire, but God was not there either. The very fact of their inclusion in this story tells us how God might be expected to show God’s glory – in really dramatic gestures. Continue reading →
Today’s readings are all about love. The disciples offered healing in Jesus’ name because of love. Jesus loved us so much that he laid down his life for us. Jesus is a Good Shepherd who loves us like a shepherd loves his flock. But hang on, you may ask. The reading talks about hired hands who run away when danger approaches, because they don’t love the sheep. In New Zealand our way of looking after sheep is very different from that of first century Palestine. Instead of 20 or so sheep that we know from birth, and tend to personally, sheep are farmed in huge stations, spread on top of high mountains and vast paddocks, and only see people a few times a year when they need to be dealt with. We certainly wouldn’t expect a hired worker to abandon their job because danger is near. Continue reading →
Today is set down in the church calender as Mothering Sunday. It originated as a time when people who were living away from home in jobs like service or farm labouring could make a visit home to their mother, and take her a special cake, or a posy of flowers. Some church still make posies for children and young people to give to their mother, or to someone who has been like a mother to them. Continue reading →
Today’s readings are about the theme of being called. Have you ever been in a busy place, and heard someone call your name? We’re hard-wired to recognise our own name, so we stop, and turn around, trying to see who is calling us, and if it is really us they want. It doesn’t often happen to me because my name is not very common. But when I hear a voice of a certain pitch saying, Mum! I react, along with quite a few other mums in the area. Our ears prick up, to see what is needed. Continue reading →
When we heard our first reading today, we could have got all excited! ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light!’ That sounds good doesn’t it?
‘They rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest’ – yes, still good!
‘The yoke of their burden, the bar across their shoulders has been broken.’ Still great news!
But what is the reason for all this good news? Isaiah tells us, prophesying about the future, that a baby has been born, and authority rests on his shoulders, and he’s got lots of high-sounding names like wonderful counsellor, prince of peace. Isaiah also tells us that the authority of this child will grow and there shall be endless peace. Now that’s something we want isn’t it? So after that reading, we’re all set for a King to sweep into town, full of power! Continue reading →